OT 16 – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 17, 2022

Lectionary Texts

In Amos 8.1-12 the prophet sees a basket of fruit, which will soon rot, as a metaphor for Israel’s fate: we are doomed because we perpetrate injustice against the poor, finding ways to exploit them. God will bring judgment on the nation.

Psalm 52 renounces wealth and power, and instead proclaims trust in God’s grace. “I am a green tree,” a living creature, receiving life from God and bearing fruit in God’s spirit.
                                                                  —or—
Psalm 82 is a cry for God to condemn the wicked and bring justice to the world.

In Colossians 1.15-28 Paul speaks of the cosmic Christ (offering a foundation for the later development of the image of the Holy Trinity): God is infinite and invisible, and yet God is present for us, a cosmic yet intimate presence that we call Christ. Jesus embodied the presence of God, and so does the loving community of his followers: the divine presence dwells in the church, the Body of Christ. Christ is the source of Creation and of our own life. In Christ — in the embodied presence of God — everything and everyone is reconciled: we are one.

In Luke 10.38-42 Jesus visits Martha and Mary. Martha asks Jesus to make Mary help her with the chores, while Mary sits and listens as a student.

Preaching Thoughts

Amos
      Prophets do not foresee the future; they see God’s will—and, seeing the current situation, they can tell where it’s going. Jesus also talks in Mt. 16.3, “about interpreting the signs of the times.” The point of course is not whether the prophet is right about the future, but about the present moment. As is almost always the case with the prophets, Amos makes it clear that the issue at hand is not individual piety but social justice, systemic evil: “you trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land” (8.4). Prophetic judgment is seldom aimed at individuals, but at nations and systems, and people who collude with them, especially people in power. The weight of Amos’ judgment (and the proper focus of our attention) is not the terror of the doom he sees coming in the future, but the tragedy of the injustice we are perpetrating right now.

Colossians
         The idea of the Holy Trinity had’t been invented when Paul wrote, but this material sure sets the stage. Paul sees a cosmic Christ, eternal and divine: “the image of the invisible God… before all things… in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Christ is divine presence and energy, with, equal to, and part of God. (Sounds like the Second Person of the Trinity, huh?) Yet that infinite life takes on a finite, mortal form in Jesus. It’s as if Jesus the human person plays the role of Christ the divine person, like Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry Potter—so definitively that you can’t imagine Harry Potter any other way than as played by Radcliffe, like we can’t imagine Christ except as played by Jesus. Yet Paul says that we, too play that same role: Christ is the head of the Body, the church—that’s us. We participate in Jesus’ embodiment of the divine role of Christ.
         Christ is God’s presence with us, and the nature of that presence is healing and reconciling: “all things” are reconciled to God through Christ (not just Christians). Our “estrangement and hostility” both toward God and toward each other is abolished: we are one in Christ. Our temptation is to revolt against Christ’s reconciliation by creating divisions among us, but those divisions are an illusion. We are one whether we like it or not.

Mary and Martha
       This story is a parable. It’s not a fact, and not a fable. Like all of Jesus’ parables, we dumb it down when we find “the moral.” It’s a gem with many facets, many dimensions. Among them:
—It’s a story about the importance of actually listening to Jesus, not just saying we believe in him.
—It’s about the balanced interdependence of action and contemplation. We’re not “supposed” to be Mary instead of Martha; we each have, and need, both of them in our hearts.
—It recognizes different ways of honoring Jesus. (Note the character of the sisters when Jesus is at their home in John 12: Martha serves; Mary anoints his feet.) Jesus’ admonition, “Martha, Martha,” invites us to trust that all forms of service are sufficient.
—It’s about Jesus affirming Mary’s violation of accepted gender boundaries by “siting at his feet listening” that is, studying as a student learning from a rabbi—a calling expected of males in that society (…and still sometimes ours….).
—It affirms your devotion to Jesus will “not be taken from you” by tasks of daily living.
—It’s an invitation to not be “worried and distracted by many things,” but focused on “one thing.”
—It’s about Jesus avoiding being triangulated between the sisters.
—It’s about how he honors Mary’s calling and refuses to tell her what to do.
—As a story about hospitality it resonates with the sense in the Colossians passage that God offers us cosmic hospitality, welcoming us and inviting us to be at home in God’s divine Being.
       We tend to pick on Martha is if she’s too selfish or anxious, but remember she’s the one who welcomed Jesus into her home. She shows hospitality. Maybe she’s inviting Mary to show some, too. Meanwhile Mary shows a different kind of hospitality: to listen, to receive someone. Sometimes the best hospitality we can show is not to “entertain,” but to listen.
        Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, was Jesus’ safe place, a place of rest and renewal. He went there often. It was his home away from home, especially in his last days in Jerusalem. This story is a glimpse into his personal life: Jesus at ease among friends.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, you welcome us into your home.
All: You receive us and serve us, and we receive your grace.
You sit with us and share quiet moments.
You speak your Word to us, and we are changed.
You feed us with the energy of your love, and give us courage.
So we sit with you; we listen to you;
and, changed, we go forth with your good news into this world.


2.
Leader: Jesus, our teacher, we come to sit at your feet.
All: We are listening, open to your wisdom and your truth.
Jesus, our healer, we want to be near you.
We are still, satisfied to simply be, and to be near you.
Jesus, our companion, grant us your Spirit.
May your peace go with us always. Amen.

3.
Leader: Jesus, our savior, you have come to us.
All: We who are distracted by many things
let go of our tasks and come to sit at your feet.
Jesus, our teacher, you impart to us a wisdom different from what the world preaches.
We open our hearts to your grace. Bless us, and change us.
Jesus, our healer, you offer us yourself.
We come to be with you, to be present for you,
so that in all we do we may be close to you.
Our hearts cry out to you.
Jesus, I love you. Come be with me.

4.
Leader: Creator God, we praise you!
All: We thank you, and we worship you.
We gather to listen to your Word,
to meditate upon your Word,
to be shaped by your Word.
Show us your ways, O God, and teach us your paths
The unfolding of your Word gives light
Alleluia! Your word is a light unto our feet
and a lamp unto our path.
Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
From the haste and pressure of the world we come into your gentle silence.
From the loneliness of our separate cars and houses we come into your presence.
From the noise and shouting of the world we come to listen to your voice.
Speak to us, God. Beloved, sit with us and change our hearts. Amen.

2.
God of truth and wisdom, God of love and presence; we are worried and distracted by many things, but one thing is needed. Hold us in your light and speak to us, that we may hear and be filled with your love. Amen.

3.
God of love, people of power and wealth trust in their riches. But our confidence is in you. Give to us now the power of your Word and the riches of your grace. We open our hearts to you. Speak your living Word to us, for we are listening. Amen.

4.
Blessed God, when Jesus visited Martha and her sister, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying. Bless us that we may chose the better part and sit with you to listen to what you are saying to us today in our worship. Help us always to treasure your companionship and live with listening hearts. Amen.

Prayer of Confession


God of love,
sometimes we have served you
in ways that are true to our gifts and callings;
and sometimes we have submitted
to other people’s expectations of us.
Help us be true to who you create us to be,
to love in the ways you give us,
to befriend you in peace and in harmony with your delight.

Readings

.Psalm 52 (My version)
Leader: Why do you boast, O powerful ones,
       of mischief done against the powerless?
All: Your plots bring destruction;
       your words are sharp razors,
       and you work treachery.
Your desires are evil and not good;
       your words are lies and not truth.
But God will break you down forever
       and uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see, and fear,
       and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take refuge in God,
       but trusted in abundant riches,
       and sought refuge in wealth!”
But I am like a green olive tree
      in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
       I will thank you forever,
       because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
       I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. [May also be used as the New Testament reading]
         Colossians 1.15-23, 26

Leader: Christ is the visible appearance of the invisible God,
       the beloved older sibling of all creation.
All: All things in heaven and on earth were created in Christ,
       everything visible and invisible,
all cosmic and human powers and dominions—
       everything was created through Christ and for Christ.
Christ, God’s presence, came before anything,
       and in Christ everything holds together.
Christ is the head and the church is the body.
Christ is the Source of life, and has turned even death into a birth:
       so Christ is first in every way.
In Christ God lives completely.
Through Christ God reconciles us to God—
       all of us, and everything on earth and in heaven:
in dying on the cross, Christ brought God and humanity together.

Once, our evil thoughts and deeds got between us and God.
But in Jesus God has occupied our earthly body and our death,
       so that now we are brought into relationship with God.

And since we are in Christ, God sees us
       as holy and irreproachable and blameless.

Stay faithful to this good news.
May we be strong and steadfast in our trust,
       and hold on to our confidence in God’s promise.

We have heard the good news,
       news that’s been proclaimed to every creature in the world.
       It’s the gospel for which we each are made a minister.
This is the mystery, hidden for ages but now revealed:
       that Christ is alive in us. Alleluia!


2.
       God, we give ourselves to you and rely upon you: Creator of all things, ruler of this world and all that is to come.
       Jesus, we love you and entrust ourselves to you: Christ, the Beloved. You are the image of the invisible God. In you all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, all powers and dominions. You are before all things, and in you all things hold together. You are the head of the body, the church. In you all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through you God was pleased to reconcile everything to God.
       Holy Spirit, we live by your power. Through you Christ is alive in us, and we enter into the life of love and beauty. In you we give ourselves to lives of justice, forgiveness and hospitality, for the sake of the healing of the world Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Loving One,
I let go of my distractions,
my many things,
and sit at your feet
only to be with you,
and to listen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Gracious and loving God, thank you for inviting us
into your lovely house, to your beautiful table.
You provide for us abundantly, and welcome us sweetly.

You establish justice, and care for those who are oppressed.
You sit at our feet and listen lovingly to us.

You set us at peace with you, and give us harmony and belonging.
Therefore with all Creation we sing your praise with one voice.
     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
the visible appearance of your invisible presence.
He embodied your love,
and created a home in you for us.
Crucified and risen, he reconciled us to you.
He blessed our many ways of serving.

And he led us to the one necessary thing:
your love, flowing through us eternally.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
May the fullness of your grace be in us.
May we be strong and steadfast in our trust in your promise. (Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in our gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You have received us with blessing and changed our hearts with your presence. Send us now with that grace to share it with all the world, in the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have offered us the deepest hospitality. Send us now into the world to offer hospitality to all, in service and in friendship,in the company of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

At Your Feet (Original song)

Jesus, at your feet I bow. I am yours completely now.
By your mercy show me how to be loving.

Jesus, Master, you who save, you have served me as a slave.
This the perfect gift you gave: to be loving.

In each hurting one I meet it is you, O Christ, I greet.
Make my faithfulness complete, to be loving.